Troubleshooting Inkle Band Weaves

Every now and then I get the urge to make a small inkle band using my Ashford Inklette loom:

This loom is pretty affordable and great to do some small weavings when you want to have something you can take with you easily.  I wanted to weave something at this year’s MSKR (Men’s Spring Knitting Retreat) 2012, and though I could have taken my rigid heddle loom, I went for ultra, ultra portable.

What I am ultimately making these bands for – beats me. I just make them.

It’s funny how I wove two or three trouble free bands and then all of the sudden, errors kept coming up all on the same project.

First, if I leave an inkle band in mid warp, I tie the active yarn several times around the bottom peg to maintain the tension until I continue. Well I had done that but when I returned, I continued warping without realizing I still had the wraps around the peg. I finished warping and then realized those loops were still there, preventing me from sliding the band around.

My solution was to carefully, slip the warp threads ahead of the problem off and hold them under tension while I took off all of those wraps. I then, again carefully, placed back all of the warp threads in my hand.

Great, except now one of my warp threads was super loose. I decided the best fix for this was to cut that loop and tie it to the adjacent warp thread very tightly. Even after doing so, I still found it too lose so I resorted to the next best logical solution…

…scotch tape.

Then I was weaving happily along when a middle heddle flew off! I guess it wasnt tied all that well. Here I separated the warp as much as I could, loosened the tension, and tried to slip a new yarn in just the right position and tie the new heddle down. Here it is in mid repeair:

I can just say that the space I had to work in wasn’t very generous, but I did manage it somehow. Its still not tight but hopefully I can continue to the end with no further issues.

The lesson is, even when things go wrong, at least you get the opportunity to try learning how to fix them and know what to look out for the next time around. It’s the only way to become really good at your craft.


Table loom weaving gets high tech – custom software

In my earlier post, I wrote about a liftplan and how it helped me save time when it came to working the levers of my table loom.

So I finally had my next project set up, and I  happily had a printout of my lift plan next to me, along with a nifty ruler so I wouldn’t lose my place.

After only minutes of weaving, I was struggling – I was losing my place often, and I would squint at the printout, not sure what line the ruler was on. Actually the ruler bothered me quite a bit. When I set my shuttle down, I had to use both hands to adjust it properly to the next line. Often I had wondered if I had woven the line the ruler was on or if I should have moved it forward.

An answer came to me in a heartbeat. The execution would be another story.

During my spare time, I craft a lot. Before the interest in the textile crafts, I was creating images in my darkroom, or playing instruments. But my day job – and what I studied, was computer engineering.

It may sound like crafting and engineering are not alike at all but in some ways they are. Learning to program as a career provided a (in my mind at the time) an easily sustainable way to create things.

What I was making was virtual and just a long series of 1’s and 0’s but I was applying specialized knowledge to create software from my own design. Just like a weaver weaves so that they can make their own unique cloth, I could make a program that reacted and looked exactly the way I wanted it to.

And that’s what I turned to to solve my weaving problem.

It took some time to get it going. Programming is an involving effort, much like many other crafts. The above is the main screen of what I wrote.

I thought it would be great if a program could just feed me, one at a time, what levers I had to depress. I didn’t have to deal with flipping a liftplan or wondering what row I was on – the computer screen would always tell me – I just had to worry about advancing the pattern.

I can go backwards, and I can note which line of the treadling I’m on in the bottom left corner of the seqeuence if I want to return and don’t know where I left off.

Later on I entered a system to keep track of how much fabric I have wovem. Once I measure off a recently completed woven section, I hit spacebar and i get the following dialog:

Then the number I input is added to the bottom right corner of the screen.

And entering the pattern couldn’t be any more easier. This is the Pattern Input Dialog:

All I do is draw the tie-up with the mouse and write down my treadling sequence. Voila! The program basically calculates its own lift plan and shows the sequences to me one at a time.

And since I can make the program look any way I want, I chose to depict the levers in positions that would correspond with my voyageur loom. I also colored the levers to close approximations of what the levers look like on my actual loom. It’s surprisingly easy to look at the screen and set up the levers properly.

With this system, I believe I have set up my table loom weaving to be as fast as it possibly can. I still have to set the shuttle down. I still have to flip the levers. I also have to advance the sequence on the software. But I have freed my hands any way to flip the levers – so that last point is not so much an issue. If only I can get my hands on a usb foot pedal.. 😉

It would also be nice to implement some sort of save feature!…one rainy day…

The Liftplan

Not too long after I had gotten my brand new loom, I realized I was instantly drawn to complex 8-shaft patterns.

The first draft I bought (and used for my first multishaft project!) was an advancing twill design on all 8 shafts.

If anyone is not familiar with advancing twills, some have long or not easily identifiable repeats when you are threading your warp yarns (which was the case for my pattern). Its the same story for the treadling – like a complex knitting chart, you need to work very slowly and pay attention.

This immediately created a problem for me. My table loom has no treadles. Not only do I have no identifiable pattern, for each treadle I have to set the 8 levers exactly. The  headache that was going in my mind wondering how I I would keep my sanity while trying to make sure I made no mistakes made me wonder if this was the right loom. Should I have gotten a floor loom with treadles?

 I started brainstorming immediately to find ways to simplify this process. My first solution is the subject of this post. My even better refinement will be the subject of another one.
My first thought was – since I don’t have treadles – I don’t really see the point in referring to that part of a weaving draft. I devised a sort of Numbers template (a mac equivalent to Excel) where I could convert one row of a weaving draft into the sequence of levers I had to depress:
This is better to visualize then explain. Below is the draft that I posted in a previous post:
And this is what I converted it to in Numbers:
In the original draft, the first step is to lift the 8th treadle, and you can see in the tie-up that it lifts shafts 1,3,4 and 7 – so in the spreadsheet, I fill out those numbers. (The numbers go from right to left because that is the way the levers are arranged on my table loom).
Then I write out the rest of the treadles until it repeats.
And that’s pretty much it! I print out the chart, keep it by my loom and follow it, pressing the levers indicated in each row.
Being a new weaver, what I actually had created, unbeknownst to me, was a liftplan.
A weaving lift plan shows the same information as a typical weaving draft, with a couple of key differences. The tie up section is empty. The treadling section no longer represents the the treadles that have to be pressed – they now show which shafts have to be raised on each row.
After inputting the draft above into Fiberworks, I had it converted into a liftplan. Now the draft looks like the following:
This is exactly what I was doing in my spreadsheet diagram. (Leclerc Voyageur table loom users beware – shaft 1 on a liftplan is the leftmost shaft, but the lever that controls it on the loom is the rightmost! You may need to invert a lift plan.)
At the end of the day, since the software can easily convert a regular weaving draft to a lift plan, I could cut time in my preparation by simply using what the software was giving me, rather than spend time in a spreadheet creating my own charts:
I thought this would solve my table loom woes, but there was something even better…

Project: Voyager Scarf

So named in honor of my trip to Plessisville to pick up my new 8S Voyageur table loom, I made this scarf out some Orlec I picked up on the same trip. Orlec is 100% acrylic, and though I generally hate using it in most fiber projects, I didn’t mind it so much here. The result does not look bad at all and I wanted to practice a new draft and my own design without using any fancy weaving yarn. I think this would be great to redo sometime with natural fibers. The draft is something I came up with on my own:

  • Equipment
    8-shaft loom that has a weaving width of 10″ or greater; 12-dent reed; shuttle; bobbins; warp sticks or suitable roll of paper for winding the warp.
  • Yarns
    Warp and weft: 8/2 Orlec 100% acrylic (3360 yd/lb) in Rust (450 yards) and Gold (650 yards)
  • Warp Length
    217 ends (that count is including 2 floating selvedges), each 3 yards long. (this accounts for about 7″ of take-up, a 5″ fringe on each side and 24″ of loom waste) Note: Its probably a generous warp I am giving here: I had left-over, and I’m trying to recall after the fact how much of it I measured, so you could get away with less but 3 yards should surely do it)
  • Sett
    Warp: 24 epi (2/dent in a 12-dent reed)
    Weft: ~22-24 ppi
  • Dimensions
    Width in reed: 9″
    Woven length (under tension):  about 80″ (approximation). This is not counting the fringe, which is of course not woven.
    Finished size after washing: 82″ including fringes (5″ long each), 8″ wide
  1. Wind the warp with the two floating selvedges in the following color order: 3 ends in rust, 211 ends  in gold, 3 ends in rust. Secure the warp and remove from warping board, forming a chain.
  2. Sley the reed putting 2 ends in each dent, centering for a weaving width of 9″. I left the floating selvedges in their own dents.
  3. Finish dressing the loom using the provided draft.
  4. After spacing the warp, weave 5 to 6 picks in plain-weave using Rust by alternating between treadles 9 and 10. Change to Gold and weave 2 more picks of plainweave.
  5. Changing back to Rust, weave following the treadling sequence until the woven cloth measures around 80″.
  6. Change to Gold and weave 2 picks of plain-weave. Change to Rust and weave 5 to 6 more picks in plainweave.
  7. Remove from loom. I used a braided fringe, braiding two sets of 4 ends in one direction, twisting both braids together in the opposite direction, and then securing the braid in a knot.
  8. Wash in hot water, let dry, and trim all woven in ends.

Lottery find at Indigo books – Doubleweave!

A couple of weeks before I acquired my table loom, I was on my way to a movie with a friend, when I passed by Indigo books in Montreal.

Indigo Books and Music Store at Yorkdale

(Okay this is not the Indigo store in Montreal, but I am allowed to use this image! 🙂

Weaving was very much on my mind during my walk, as I was dreaming about what I would weave with my new loom, so I popped in the store to humorously see what weaving books were in stock.

I say humourously because there are never any weaving books in stock. I ocassionally see some in American bookstores, but the market here for such things is pathetically small, so I was expecting to find nothing and idle the rest of my time away in the magazine section.

But, unbelievelingly enough, this is what I found in the crafts section:

Jennifer Moore’s book on Doubleweave by Interweave Press! This was no beginning weaving book – it was a specialized weaving technique that really doesn’t belong in a mainstream Canadian bookstore 🙂

I couldn’t believe my eyes. I pulled it out of the rack and ran to my friend to tell her what I found. My non-weaver friend just had a blank stare on her face, thinking I had gone totally mad.

And I had. That book came home with me that night and I skimmed through every section before going to bed.

Double weave allows you, among other things, to weave a folded fabric that is, once off the loom and unfolded, wider than the loom can physically handle. Which, if you have a narrow loom, opens a new world of possibilities – my table loom would suddenly be capable of making shawls or pillow coverings!

There is one main catch when making a wider fabric: You need to divide your loom’s harnesses in two in order to manipulate the upper and lower layers as you weave. This means that a four-harness loom can only weave a 2 harness pattern (plainweave) in doubleweave, and if I want to design a doubleweave cloth on my 8-harness table loom, I’ll be limited to 4-shaft patterns.

You can also create a tube of fabric (great for bags or purses), or make patterns that appear in reverse on the other side of the cloth. (Double weave pickup allows you to make any design you want, free of restrictions). You can also connect the two layers of fabric to make an extra thick and cushy cloth. The layers on one side can be exchanged with the other at any time, for a variety of effects.

I am looking forward to giving this technique a try sometime soon!

(and yes, anyone who knows me knows that the geek in me would totally make a QR code doubleweave scarf as shown below 🙂

QR3D doublewoven

QR3D doublewoven (Photo credit: RuTemple)

The Weaving Draft

It doesn’t take long when learning to weave until you encounter your first drafts, and it took me a while to figure out what they were and how they worked. I thought I’d write about how I learned to understand a weaving draft.

A draft can be considered to be the equivalent of a knitting pattern. Actually, not really. It’s more like a chart in a knitting pattern. Its not enough information for a weaver to start a particular project – details such as sett, yardage, material, finished project dimensions are all absent , but it provides information on how to set the loom up and work it to produce a cloth with a particular interlacement.

Drafts are usually divided into four quadrants. In the draft below of a 2/2 twill, I’ve labelled the quadrants A to D.

The Threading (A)

This section shows how the harnesses/shafts of a loom must be threaded. (Editor’s note: I used the term shafts and harnesses interchangeably without realizing and didn’t have time to fix it.) A harnesses job is to raise the threads that are assigned to it so that the weft yarn can pass underneath them. This section tells the weaver what threads each harness lifts and in what order.

The horizontal lines represent each individual harness. The bottom line is the harness closest to you if you’re sitting in front of the loom. You can also tell how many shafts your loom has to have to weave the draft by looking at how many rows are in this section.

Though there are many ways to thread the loom, two common ways to thread is straight threading and point threading.

In straight threading, a warp yarn goes through harness 1, the next yarn goes to harness 2 and so on. After you thread a heddle on the last harness, you go back to harness 1 and continue.

In point threading, you also thread harnesses 1 at a time. When you reach the end however, you change direction and thread the harnesses in the reverse order instead of starting back at harness 1. The original draft is shown below, with the only thing changed is the threading from straight to point threading. The diagonal stripes become horizontal zig zags.

The Tie Up (B)

Treadles (the floor pedals of a loom) are used to raise 1 or more shafts at the same time. The treadles on most loomes are usually fully configurable and can be set up to raise any combination of shafts you want it to. By doing so, the treadles provide the weaver a way to quickly raise combinations of shafts that form a pattern without having to think in terms of indiviaual harnesses (which is the case for my table loom). This section tells the weaver how to connect the treadles to the shafts.

Each column in quadrant B represents a treadle. Column 1 is for the first treadle and so on. If a row of that column is marked with a figure (usually an ‘O’ or its filled in), it means that the treadle needs to be connected to the shaft it is next to.

The Treadling (C)

This section simply tells you what order to press the pedals in to form a particular pattern the cloth. Like the threading, common treadlings are straight and point treadlings – they operate in the same way.

In the example of our 2/2 twill above, if we change the treadling from straight to point, we now get diamond patterns:

You can probably notice by now that by using a point pattern on the threading, treadling, or both, introduces a lines of horizontal and vertical symmetry into the cloth. You can also see in drafts such as this that the pattern in the cloth can be seen in the the tie-up quadrant of the draft.

A final note about our example, you’ll notice that in this draft, the threading and the treadling order is exactly the same. You’ll see the instruction “tromp as writ” come up from time to time, sometimes in drafts where the treadling is absent. This means to simply treadle in the same order as is threaded, I imagine its an old way of saying “treadle as written”.

The Drawdown (D)

This section gives you an idea what the finished cloth pattern will look like – it basically shows you the resulting interesction of the warp and weft yarns, usually with the implicit assumption that the warp is a black yarn and the weft is a white yarn.

Sometimes, more than one repeat is shown in either direction so you can see how one repeat connects with one another when they are laid side by side.

In the diagram below, you can see how you can figure out how to draw this section if you know what’s in the other three. I show how the second pick (weft row) is drawn in our 2/2 point twill draft:

  1. First you look at the tie up associated with the treadle that is being pressed and determine which shafts are being raised.
  2. Next you look across the shafts and every column that is filled with a number represents the threads that that are being lifted
  3. Finally, in the current pick that is being drawn, you darken each square that is directly below the squares being lifted.Continue the process for each pick and you’re done.
One last note before signing off – what you’re seeing in quadrant D is a drawdown, the  key word being down. When we weave however, the cloth is actually formed in the other direction (from bottom to top). For that reason, sometimes you’ll see drafts with quadrants A and B at the bottom, which will show how the actual cloth will look as it is woven on the loom. For fully symmetrical patterns, the direction doesn’t matter. But for other drafts, such as our simple 2/2 twill at the beginning of the post, this will mean that what looks like a twill that travels in the right direction in the draft will actually travel in the left direction when it is woven!

I randomly designed something! / Postal surprise

Before I acquired my table loom, I started studying / trying to figure out how to intentionally design drafts (as opposed to randomly filling things out and seeing what happens!).

Apart from trying to figure some stuff out, I found an excellent series of articles in some old Shuttle Spindle and & Dyepot magazines given to me by my friend Phil.

But before I could comprehend any of it, the software engineer in me led me straight to weaving software. The first one I got was actually a lead from my friend Aaron, who showed me an app for the ipad and iPhone called iWeaveIt back when I just had my rigid heddle. It is based on the WeaveIt weaving software package (which I can’t own since I don’t have any windows PCs)

It’s basic and cheap but it does excel at quickly doodling / visualizing drafts on the go.

I also have been evaluating Proweave and Fiberworks. They’re both great but I have a smaller tilt towards Fiberworks. And they both run on Macs. A look at what weaving software can do would actually make a great post in of itself.

I came up with this draft in Fiberworks, All I did was select a point twill threading (and treadled in the same fashion), and tried to draw some pattern in the bottom left quadrant of my tie-up. Fiberworks then flipped, rotated and inverted that small drawing based on my parameters to fill the rest of the tie-up … and voila!

 I’m sure it’s in a pattern book somewhere. I picked some colors for warp and weft that it might look good in, and from all the initial random doodlings that I did where I had no idea what I was doing, I like this one the most. I would love to try weaving it some day. If everything I said sounds like greek I might just explain drafts at some point too.


After I wrote the first draft of this blog a surprise came in the mail from Webs. (ok not really much of a surprise):

  Lots of great inspiration in my new library addition, and some tencel, merino, and alpaca/silk weaving yarns for future projects.

Looking at the colors, I think forest green and black would also make a nice color combination for my draft above. I just might try to make a scarf out of it.